Satellites to help Russian Antarctic expedition

Satellites to help Russian Antarctic expedition


Russia, 3 December 2006 – By November 15 the Academic Fedorov research ship has passed the English Channel and entered the Bay of Biscay heading for the Antarctic land per the program of the 52nd Russian Antarctic Expedition.

The expedition team will do the research work in Antarctica’s seasonal field bases and stations, will arrange AN-2 plane flights to the intercontinental Vostok station, will relief the winter polar explorers and will carry on oceanologic research in the South Ocean. Despite the summer Antarctic season, navigation in the South Ocean will be under difficult ice conditions.

For the information support of the ice reconnaissance the flagship of the Russian polar fleet is equipped with the Liana station to receive space meteorological images of low resolution in APT format and the ScanEx station to receive middle resolution images in HRPT format from the NOAA satellites. Satellite data processing and station maintenance is performed by the specialists of the St-Petersburg “Arctic & Antarctic R&D Institute”.

Easy-to-install and PC-compatible Liana antenna system (developed by the ScanEx R&D Center) enables the explorers to use the station during the sea expeditions as a mobile data reception complex. Selection of the optimal navigation route through the ice is supported onboard the ship using the ice maps, drawn based on the space images. Back in 90s, Russian polar stations – Mirny, Novolazarevskaya, Bellinsgausen and later on Progress – were already equipped with Liana ground stations.

ScanEx station provides for the reception of more detailed images with the resolution of 1 km in 5 spectral channels, which enables to create composite pseudo color images in day-time and night-time (polar daynight). According to V. Korablev, chief specialist of the Arctic & Antarctic R&D Institute on ice information support, the information value of space images has increased by an order during the transition periods in the near-polar areas due to the fact that the pseudo color images processing enabled to detect ice properties through thin clouds. Besides, the ScanEx station makes it possible to determine the surface temperature and to draw maps of sea surface automatically, as well as to overlay cloud masks and so on for different thematic objectives.

In 2000, the ScanEx station was mounted onboard the Academic Fedorov research ship and after being tested in autonomous voyage through the ice fields, starting from the 18th Antarctic round trip (46th Russian Antarctic Expedition in 2001), the station has been continuously operating onboard the research ship in all the maritime operations in the Arctic and Antarctic. The obtained space data enabled to considerably improve the ship routing through the ice and reduce the time of ice navigation due to better itinerary and fewer helicopter ice reconnaissance missions.

The acquired experience of ice routing based on space images can be used for the optimization and improvement of the Russian fleet sea navigation safety on the Northern Sea Route.